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Site of the Month: Camden Council

Camden Council is May's 'Site of the Month'. Built by Solutions Outsourced, it is an innovative, accessible, visually engaging design built to ease pressure on the Council's call centre. 

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Solutions Outsourced is a Sydney-based full-service digital agency, founded in 2002 in response to a growing need to help businesses navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.

Solutions Outsourced specialises in custom web system development to solve problems that their clients care about and can't solve with off-the-shelf solutions. They also work in brand design, marketing, UI and UX design, cloud systems, infrastructure deployment and broader digital offerings. Solution Outsourced is one of SilverStripe’s professional partners and has been building SilverStripe sites since 2015.

Background

Camden Council approached Solutions Outsourced to design and develop their new website. Having built and hosted Camden Council’s previous website, as well as that of several of their sub-brands including Camden Library and Camden Civic Centre, Camden Council trusted Solutions Outsourced to meet their extensive needs for the project.

Designing the site

Solutions Outsourced’s design team worked closely with the Camden Council marketing team and key stakeholders through a series of workshops and presentations to develop an innovative, accessible, visually engaging design. The primary directive in designing the new website was to reduce pressure on the council’s call centre. This was achieved by creating a system of design hierarchy which led the user to navigate the site in a preferred manner, and placed key information at the forefront of the design.

Screenshot of the easy site navigation through tiles

Navigation tiles on the homepage

The approach to the design of the website was highly collaborative. From Solutions Outsourced’s first meeting with Camden Council on the project, it was clear a lot of time had been put into figuring out the organisation’s goals for the website, which gave the design team a really clear vision of where to take the design. They decided to structure the homepage to lead the user to the information they needed as directly as possible, and to give each element on the page priority based on how likely the user would be to need that information.

One of the bigger challenges overall was ensuring every part of the design was accessible. The Council’s previous brand colours were limited and conservative so Solutions Outsourced decided to create a vibrant new digital colour palette which incorporated accessible versions of the council’s existing brand colours.

noticeboard from the camden website

Noticeboard

With the scale of the project, the team were able to explore many different unique layouts for all various content types and that process of prototyping and refining lead to some real hero sections of the site as a result. One stand-out favourite is the Events Calendar. The Camden Council team were pleased with the outcome and the lead designer enjoyed creating this feature.

events calendar on the website made up of square images for each event

Events calendar

Site development

It was now critical for the development team to realise the visual and interface elements of the site design, in a way that is both easy to navigate for the user, and efficient to manage for Council admins. The development team collaborated closely with the Council team and Solutions Outsourced’s designers on key functionality at each stage of build. They deployed a visually striking interface design for the Council, built on a web platform and content management system that is easy and efficient for admins to use, and ultimately, delivered a site that is intuitive for residents to find the information they need when engaging with Camden Council.

As with all large scale enterprise solutions, there was a wide range of requirements to consider and bring together in a way that could be supported and enhanced over the long term. SilverStripe provided the building blocks for Solutions Outsourced’s development team to satisfy both the functional requirements and also have the freedom to stay true to the beautiful designs.

From the beginning, Camden Council wanted search to be a key feature of the user experience, not merely navigation-of-last-resort. As such Solutions Outsourced used a number of SilverStripe tools to allow for a rich search experience. Firstly councils sometimes use language for their own services that their residents don’t always understand. Adding search synonyms allowed for colloquial names to be searchable without using those phrases visibly on the site. The build also allowed pages to be tagged as specially relevant to a particular search term or phrase. If that search is entered, the page will be promoted as an “Our Best Results” page. This allows Camden Council to alleviate the frustration caused by search not identifying the most relevant page correctly.

Screenshot of the search results page, search term parks

Example of search results page

Camden Council also had a need to distribute authorship of pages to subject matter experts in the departments. To help support that goal Solutions Outsourced used two core add-ons from the SilverStripe community–Advanced Workflow and Page Review. Advanced Workflow allows pages to be approved before publishing, and a modified version of the Review add-on ensures page owners check their pages at least every 6 months to maintain the quality of the information on the site. Coupled with SilverStripe’s built-in publishing capability and History views, Camden Council is able to have confidence when distributing the site’s authorship beyond the Customer Service team to the people who know the content best.

Distributing authorship also means training and support has to be minimised, so Solutions Outsourced had to make the back-end as simple as possible for authors. SilverStripe’s intuitive editor and some elegant interface work allows over 50 editors to be managed and trained sustainably.

Interested in becoming a SilverStripe Partner? Check out the SilverStripe Partner Programme or email [email protected]  

About the author
Dani Smith

Bridging the gap between design and marketing, digital and print. 

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